"Of all national assets, archives are the most precious:
they are the gift of one generation to another,
and the extent of our care of them marks the
extent of our civilization." Arthur Doughty.

About Us

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San Juan Archipelago, Washington State, United States
A society formed in 2009 for the purpose of collecting, preserving, celebrating, and disseminating the maritime history of the San Juan Islands and northern Puget Sound area. Check this log for tales from out-of-print publications as well as from members and friends. There are circa 650, often long entries, on a broad range of maritime topics; there are search aids at the bottom of the log. Please ask for permission to use any photo posted on this site. Thank you.

29 September 2012

❖ The Canadian in Deception Pass ❖ My Experiences in a Flood Tide

By Capt. Ray Quinn
 Deception Pass, 1938.
Original photo from archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"This is a story about takin' off through Deception Pass. We picked up a tow out of Skapna on DOUGLAS, and we'd picked up a tow in Olympia and gone for Anacortes. We'd got to Coronet Bay, which is a little bay inside of Deception Pass where you can tie up your tow  and wait for weather and tides. So we was in there for four or five days, and the weather was bad outside, so we couldn't go out. The other tugs had come in and tied up too, so when we did get good weather, we was all gonna go out at once, on the same tide.
      The Gilkey Brothers' tug SOUND, she was a tug of about 280-hp. She had a tow, and she was gonna be the first boat out. So she pulled away from the moorings in Coronet Bay. Then there was two little boats had a 12-section raft, they went around in back of the island in Coronet Bay, and they were gonna come out and go second. DOLLY C. was gonna be the third boat. Then our turn come--we's gonna be the fourth boat. We had three sections of logs. There was two little ones from Gilkey Bros., they had eight sections apiece, so they doubled their raft up. One of 'em was gonna tow the logs through the pass, and the other one was gonna tail his raft out. Then there was a coupla other little boats there that had eight sections apiece. They were gonna be the last ones out.
       So we all started out, and the tide was floodin' pretty good yet. SOUND, he got right up into the Pass pretty close to the entrance to the Pass, and he looked out, and so did I--I happened to see it , too. Here come a Canadian tug with 32 sections of cedar logs, comin' in on the last of the flood, somethin' that was unheard of. You couldn't judge the tides along there enough to do that. Anyhow, in he come, and SOUND, he pulled over behind Pass Island and got out of the way. These two little boats stayed behind the island. They were in the clear, but DOLLY C. was right off Strawberry Island. He was in the main channel, and he had a double raft of about 16 sections. So in this guy come. The Rogers brothers, they saw him too, comin', so they run out and got on the tail end of his raft and tried to help him steer it, but the last of the flood was settin' on what we call Gobbler's Knob, a point of rock on the Whidbey Island side of the Pass. The bridge pier sets on it now, comes down on the Gobbler's Knob. But anyhow, the last section hit that and spilled some logs, and he kept vomin' in. The cedar raft, the logs were floatin' pretty high in the raft, and the tow that DOLLY C. had, it was hemlock and it was pretty low in the water. The cedar raft hit DOLLY C.'s raft, and the cedar went right over the top of the hemlock logs and knocked the lantern jack down about a third of the way in on the section, and they were kind of locked together. I was right behind DOLLY C. so I could see what happened. We let our tow line run up against this Canadian raft, and he pushes off of the top of DOLLY C.'s raft and over towards Strawberry Island, but the tide was runnin' pretty hard yet, so he got clear. He hollered at me as he went by, he says, 'Where can I go? Where can I go?' I told 'im, 'You can go to hell, as far as I'm concerned!' But anyhow, we got this cedar raft off of DOLLY C.'s hemlock.
      So then we took our towline in again and started pullin'. So then SOUND, he come back in, and the tide and started to change, so he went out, and these two little boats behind--I can't remember the name of that island--they come out of the hole and went on out, then DOLLY C. went, and then it was our turn. By that time the tide was ebbin' like hell, but the Rogers brothers, they had two little tugs, and they were tailin' every tow that went out. So we cleared everything, and soon as we got outside the narrowest place, the tail end of the raft was still in the fast current, and the front end of it was in the less currrent. We's pullin' on that anyhow, but then the raft tried to tie knots in itself. Everything went all right--the gear all held. We got clear and went on up into Burrows Bay and caught the next tide in to Anacortes. Everybody did. The last two guys out, they only had a single raft apiece, about eight sections, and they really got a ride. The Rogers brothers done an excellent job of tailin' everybody and this Canadian tied up to the dolphin moorings in Coronet Bay. They told him when to leave and everything. I guess he was goin' to Seattle with them. I don't know. I don't know where he went, but nobody hit 'im.
Tugs with tails, 
towing through Deception Pass.
Date unknown.

      One guy tried years ago. He went out on the last of the ebb in Deception Pass. He got out to where the stake light is, the entrance to the place. He got that far, and the tide started to flood, and he started goin' backwards, he couldn't hold 'em, and he dropped his anchor, and the anchor finally fetched up, and it jerked the twin' machine off of the deck, and the towin' machine acted as an anchor and kinda held the raft in a straight line, and it went through the Pass backwards by itself. Nobody ever tried it after that, goin' out on the last of the tide."
By Captain Ray Quinn
Transcribed to Jean Burrows,
Courtesy of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society
The Sea Chest
March 2008

The late Captain Ray Quinn was a well-known master mariner and tugboat captain. In 1954 he joined the Puget Sound Pilots and served in that capacity for 20 years. Many of his stories have appeared in The Sea Chest, a journal for members of the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society, Seattle, WA.
click here

20 September 2012

❖ Waterfront Burn for the FLYER ❖

The postcard, mailed 4 July 1909,
notes a US mileage record earned by the FLYER,
steaming 87,000 miles per year.

Old Ship FLYER to Be Burned 
as Waterfront Tongues 
Tell of Her Fame

May 1929
"Next week residents of Richmond Beach will have the opportunity to see a gaunt specter of a ship, her orange funnel gleaming in the sunlight, slowly ride at anchor off the sands of the beach. But no smoke will be pouring from the funnel nor will there be the beat of drumming engines. She will be just a creaking old hull, stripped of brasswork and fittings, mulling over the glories of her past.
      A panting little tug will fasten cables to her, and slowly the hull will be dragged up to the beach. Then, as night falls, flames will lick greedily into her vitals and the old FLYER, now the WASHINGTON, once pride of Puget Sound, will be no more.
      Back in 1891 the FLYER's wooden hull went down the ways at Portland. She was brought to Puget Sound immediately and on those inland waters has carried the American flag a distance equal to five times around the globe. Responsible citizens today remember when, as children, they watched her as the FLYER plying between Seattle, and sound ports. She carried on until a few weeks ago, when the order was given for dismantling.
      Waterfront tongues began to wag as soon as it was known she was to go the way of old time ships. Many and varied tales were told, but one remains a classic in the annals of the Puget Sound Navigation Co. who own her.
 O.N. 120876
"The most faithful old boat. Not in Seattle, 
not in the State of Washington,
not in the US, but the most faithful old boat 
in the whole wide, wide world,
was that old FLYER-day in and day out." 
Joshua Green (1869-1975)
      It was just after the name had been changed to the WASHINGTON ten years ago that the ship had been ordered to relieve the INDIANAPOLIS the next day on the Sunday run to Tacoma. At Port Townsend the boat put into the dock for oil.

The WASHINGTON (ex-FLYER) 6 July 1924

Port of Friday Harbor, 
San Juan County.
Original photos from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
       'Fill 'er up with oil, we've got four trips tomorrow,' ordered Capt. Sam Barlow to his chief engineer.
      'We've got enough oil to run 'er,' replied that saturnine worthy of Scottish extraction.
      'O.K. You're the boss of that, but be sure we have,' replied the skipper.
      At 9 o'clock the WASHINGTON left on the last run. Off Three Tree Point the engineer sprung the news that the oil tanks were empty.
      'Put 'er into the wharf,' ordered the captain with many a salty oath. But, alas, the 14-ft draft of the vessel prevented her from warping in. The mate went ashore in a small boat just as the light went out on the ship. One hundred forty-five homeward bound passengers set up a howl of dismay. On shore the mate phoned the predicament of the ship to his superiors. A sleepy port captain ordered out the WEILALI, slowest vessel in the fleet, to tow the WASHINGTON back to Tacoma. The 'Weary Willie' reached the stranded WASHINGTON about midnight and took a line.
      One hundred forty-five passengers prepared for an all-night voyage in the light of oil lamps and lanterns.
      It was just 5:45 AM Monday when the WASHINGTON and the WEILALI pulled into the municipal dock of Tacoma. A high company official was waiting for the chief engineer.
      'Where is he?' he demanded. 'Tell him to pack his suitcase and get the blankety blank off this vessel.'
      The chief engineer thrust an oily head out a port hole.
      'Mister, he said, 'I've had this grip packed for the past five hours."
Text by Mac Groff. Newspaper publisher and date unknown.

19 September 2012

❖ Waterfront Pageantry ❖

steaming into Elliott Bay, Seattle, WA.
Date between 1934-1939.
Original photograph from the James A. Turner Collection,
Saltwater People Historical Society©
 "We were young and full of vinegar in those early years of Seattle's Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society [PSMHS]. Steamboat races, tugboat races, and pyrotechnics were frequently on our minds. Action we wanted and action we got--action mixed with history--a novel combination. Our first big endeavor was to race on Elliott Bay the last of the inland passenger steamers in an epic contest for the crown.
SIGHTSEER on Lake Washington, Seattle.

Original photo from the 
J.A.T. Collection/S.P.H.S. archives.
Pitted against each other were the venerable steamers VIRGINIA V and the SIGHTSEER, skippered by Captain 'Howling' Parker and Captain Harry Wilson, respectively. This led to the annual Elliott Bay tugboat races, sponsored by the PSMHS for many years and involving scores of tugs of all sizes and horsepower, coming here from as far as Alaska to the north and the Columbia River to the south, with a generous sprinkling of Canadian challengers as well. We started a nationwide show, one that was copied in several large American ports.
Then came that featured race between the last of the sternwheelers--the SKAGIT CHIEF, SKAGIT BELLE, and W. T. PRESTON.
Churning up Elliott Bay 20 Aug. 1950.
The course of the Seafair event ran from 
Magnolia Bluff to the foot of Lenore Street.
Race sponsored by the Puget Sound Maritime Historical Society.

Photo by Larry Dion for the Seattle Times©.
Original from the S. P. H. S.
The blackhorse PRESTON took the honors. And when the annual Seafair rolled around, the destruction of Neptune's ship fell in our hands, and Elliott Bay was the scene of the fiery end of many worn-out hulls including the historic BELLINGHAM, first ship of the Alaska Steamship Co., Black Ball Line, and Northland Transportation Co.

Photo by James A. Turner, Seattle, WA.
Date and event unknown.
Original photo from the archives of the S. P. H. S.©
Those were rip-snorting days of fun and frolic, and we salty dogs and dock wallopers really lived it up.
Text by Jim Gibbs
The Sea Chest
Quarterly journal of the PSMHS
June 1969

12 September 2012

❖ Recalling the Sternwheeler FAIRHAVEN

Undated litho card from the archives of the S.P.H.S.©

"I looked out the window of the LaConner Hotel and there was the FAIRHAVEN docked below, steam coming out around her sternwheel. I was fascinated." So reminisces Elliott Pickrell of Indianola about his first encounter with the Mosquito Fleet. Cyrus Pickrell brought his family west from S. Dakota by train in 1904, arriving on Easter Sunday and making connections the same day for Mt. Vernon on the Great Northern. From there the family took a stagecoach to LaConner. The elder Pickrell was an Indian Agent, his assignment being the Swinomish Indian Reservation. The next day the family took an 18-ft skiff across Swinomish Slough to their new home. For two years they lived there and Elliott and brother William remember well the comings and goings of the FAIRHAVEN.
      "She had no schedule such as the ferries we're used to now. She came in at high tide. She was a flat-bottomed sternwheeler and would load and discharge before getting stuck. But sometimes she'd miss and have to wait 12 hours for the next tide. Half the time she made a night run and the other half the day run. All the waters around there are very shallow. The family's occasional trips to Seattle on the steamer show what generated the Mosquito Fleet's traffic. Elliott made the trip twice, once to meet an aunt and once for family shopping.
      My recollection is that we always had a stateroom, since the trip took about eight hours. I recall eating in the galley."
      The FAIRHAVEN was built in 1889 at the Capt. John J. Holland yard in Tacoma. She was a wooden sternwheel steamer, 130.2' x 26.5' x 6.2' with a single cylinder engine of 196 ihp. She measured 319 g. tons and 240 n. tons. In 1918 she was beached after a fire and was used as a makeshift houseboat to close out her days. The FAIRHAVEN was one of Puget Sound's many 'mosquito fleet' steamers that made development of the region feasible in the early days.
Rex Lee Carlaw
Courtesy of P.S.M.H.S.
The Sea Chest, Dec. 1982
For information on PSMHS membership
here www.pugetmaritime.org/Membership.htm

04 September 2012

❖ Faithful Sidewheeler GEORGE E. STARR with Liverpool Tin ❖ 1896

The Steamer GEORGE E. STARR,
launched 1879 at William Hammon's shipyard on the Seattle
waterfront between Cherry and Columbia Streets.
Original photo inscribed from the Marine Salon, Seattle
in the archives of the S.P.H.S.©
"The steamer GEORGE E. STARR made the initial run on the UTOPIA's old route, viz; Tacoma and Seattle to Vancouver via the San Juan islands, last Monday. She left Seattle at midnight Sunday night and arrived here early Monday morning. She had aboard about 100 Chinamen, forty-five of them for the Island Packing Co., of this place, and fifty-five en route to the Alaska Packers Assoc. Canneries at Point Roberts. The tin which has been expected for several days past, arrived on the Thompson yesterday; the Chinamen will at once begin the work of making the cans to be used for the season's pack. The tin, which comes from Liverpool, England, by sailing vessel around the Horn, arrived at Astoria several days ago and came from there by rail to Seattle and here [Friday Harbor] by steamer LYDIA THOMPSON. The STARR will make one round trip a week calling here both ways, and will likely run all summer. The UTOPIA has been put on the Alaska route".
The Islander, Friday Harbor, WA., April 1896

At age 100, Joshua Green (1869-1975) was proclaimed "Commodore of all Puget Sound Fleets", as he looked back on the happiest days of his life, his steamboating for forty years on Puget Sound. 

The head of Puget Sound Navigation Company commented on the GEORGE E. STARR--

"There was a faithful little boat. If you put a load on her, the side paddlewheels went so far down in the water she would hardly go ahead at all! She ran from Bellingham to Seattle. We had a full load of canned salmon on her and she was so slow that it cost us more to feed the passengers than the passage money amounted to. We had a peck of troubles in those days too. It wasn't all easy sailing."

Three photos from the cannery in Friday Harbor, WA. 
From the archives of the Saltwater People Historical Society©.

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